Invincible’s Gore Is a Reminder of How Superhero Fights Often Gloss Over the Violence
Amazon’s Invincible follows The Boys in being a dark, bloody story of superheroes in a more “realistic” way. Based on the Image Comics series by Robert Kirkman, the animated series follows the coming of age of superhero Mark Grayson/Invincible, a Viltrumite and first-born son of Nolan Grayson/Omni-Man, the most powerful person on the planet.
**Spoilers for Invincible.**
When it comes to violence and gore, I think that having a narrative purpose makes it more effective than just being gore porn, and while, in many ways, Invincible crosses that line often, when I actually thought about it, the violence is reflective of the actual carnage that superhero series so often gloss over.
I grew up watching Justice League, and there were countless battles in that series—Superman flying through buildings, battles that would bleed into the streets, and superpowered beings attacking each other with murderous intent. While there would be injuries and maybe even a singly bloody trickle on their jawline, the cartoons were made for children. They were never going to highlight the true brutality this would do to their bodies.
Even in The CW’s DC TV shows, where people do die and terrible things happen to people, the violence is watered down and brushed aside as much as possible. People recover from what should be long-term injuries within a few weeks.
Mind you, that is not a criticism, but just like one of my biggest issues with PG-13 films is that they turn violence into a bloodless enterprise, when you remove the physics and pain from these fights, you focus on the characters as icons. You need your symbol to remain unscathed.
That is not the case in Invincible.
While there are many moments and fights that come to mind, the two that I think are the most important are “That Actually Hurt” and “Where I Really Come From.”
In “That Actually Hurt,” Mark teams up with the anti-villain Titan to take down the villain Machine Head, who runs the city in a slumlord tyrannical way. Machine Head knows he doesn’t have the ability to fight Mark on his own and pays multiple villains for security. The new Guardians arrive to help, but Mark, Monster Girl, and Black Samson are beaten badly by Thokk, the Battle Beast—I mean so bad that I was like, “We have witnessed murders right now.” What was the most chilling was when Battle Beast brought down his war hammer on Mark’s abdomen.
I thought that was the end. Then, I thought of all the times I’d seen a superhero get hit with a mace or something twice as deadly and just be okay. Because if we saw Superman like that … I don’t know if I could handle it. I felt really stunned after that moment, and I think it was the moment that I realized the point of the violence in this show. At least for me, it is a reminder of the physical toll of all this.
Imagine going through all of that bodily trauma and still deciding to be a hero. Still deciding to fight. The following episode deals with a lot of the recovery from this battle, and it is a heavy toll on everyone, but they still keep fighting.
Following that, “Where I Really Come From” really highlights the amount of carnage that’s usually hidden from view when two superpowered people decide to fight and one doesn’t care about human lives.
Mark’s father Nolan, a.k.a. Omni-Man, reveals himself to be an alien eugenics conqueror and tells Mark that human lives are worthless and need to be subjugated as part of the Viltrumite Empire. Mark tries to remind Nolan that he used to save people, to which Nolan creates a blood sea of death around Mark. Buildings collapse as Mark tries to save people, only to be left with their bloody arms as the only remaining piece.
Then, in a scene that is so FUBAR, Nolan takes Mark’s body and uses it to smash through a moving train, allowing his son to fully witness and be a tool used to kill countless hundreds of humans. It is disgusting, it is cruel, and it also shows just how much carnage these fights create. The heroes, even when they are trying, can’t save everyone, and this reminds us that there is a cost when Superman gets thrown through a building that collapses.
Invincible is not for everyone, but if you are a fan of The Boys, this is the perfect chaser to that experience.
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